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David Pepper: Professional Pay-To-Play Politician

By a show of hands, how many of us have ever caught someone in a blaze of hypocrisy? I’m imagining everyone raising their hands. How many of us have ever voted for that person afterwards? I’m imagining a lot less hands in the air.

This is a real scenario, unfolding this week, as we witness the latest ploy in David Pepper’s campaign.

In keeping his quadrennial tradition of running for another office, Pepper has decided to assert himself in his latest race, by hammering accusations of corruption and pay-to-play politics in the office of his latest opponent, Attorney General, Mike DeWine.

Pepper has a very sheer case, as is the norm, but the diligent trust-fund millionaire won’t let that stop him. This time however, there is a far bigger issue here. Considering it’s important to note that David Pepper’s political career has been MADE by pay-to-play politics.

In 2007, when the Democrats took majority control of the Hamilton County Commission (Pepper and current incumbent, Todd Portune), they voted to award a $75,000 grant to the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission, garnering heavy criticism from COAST.

According to their own account in a blog post from 2008, COAST filed suit to prevent the funds being given out, and in the process, obtained a deposition from Kristen Erwin, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission. According to Erwin, she and Pepper had been at one time, romantically involved. Erwin supported the notion that their personal relationship was in fact the basis for receiving the funds.

The COAST blog explains that “…almost instantly after the Erwin deposition, and before COAST could get Pepper’s testimony, the suit settled.”

Investigators discovered further evidence that it wasn’t the first time Pepper was able to funnel public funds into Erwin’s pocket.

Over a period of two years, while a member of Cincinnati City Council, David Pepper voted to channel $75,000 to Erwin, at least of portion of those funds were voted on while the two were engaged in a romantic relationship.

According to COAST, Erwin confirmed in her deposition to them that her relationship played a vital role in the decision to allocate the money. Read Erwin’s deposition here.

Fast forward to 2008, when Pepper and Portune were instrumental in establishing a Families and Children First Council in Hamilton County. This enabled public money to be used to fund Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio.

In 2007, big time Pepper donor Thomas Crain (he donated $22,000 to be exact, just for the 2006 campaign) joined the board for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio, and was treasurer for 2010-2012.

We’re to believe it’s coincidence that one year before David Pepper establishes a council enabling public funding to flow into Planned Parenthood’s coffers, one of his mega donors joins the board, and donates over $20,000 to his campaign. And this is just what we know from public record.

So it seems the price for receiving public funding to advance your agenda is around $22,000.

During this campaign cycle, to date, Pepper has received over over $5,000 from Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio board members. These include Board Chair Kathy Brinkman ($2500) and her husband George ($250), Dick Westheimer ($500), Kimberly Hamlin ($100), Rick Kay ($150), Carol Kabel ($500), Jay Shatz ($200) and Dr. Nora Zorich ($1,000). The last time this happened, he channelled county funds straight back to Planned Parenthood, and that was with one guy. Imagine what he’s planning, and willing to do when the entire board is bankrolling his campaign.

Pepper must think voters are dense enough to buy his grandstanding, but they know better. Hanging your hat on “cleaning up a pay-to-play culture” only works when you’re not inventing an issue. It holds far less water when the one throwing the stones lives in a glass house.


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Third Base Politics is an Ohio-centric conservative blog that has been featured at Hot Air, National Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and others.


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